M. Soccer Sweeps Matches in NorCal

    MEN’S SOCCER — For the first time in 26 seasons, a new head coach has been stalking the sidelines at the UCSD men’s soccer games and the initial results have been extremely impressive. New coach John Pascale has the Tritons off to a torrid start with five victories in as many matches as the experienced squad seeks to take the program to new heights.

    The team began its campaign with home victories over University of Hawaii-Hilo, the University of Concordia and Cal State San Marcos, outscoring opponents by a margin of 6-1. The Tritons were then forced from the friendly confines of UCSD and hit the road to begin California Collegiate Athletic Association play with matches against San Francisco State and Cal State Monterey Bay on Sept. 12 and 14. Both matches were hard fought but the Tritons were able to dispatch their foes from the Bay Area by a score of 1-0 and the Otters of Monterey by 2-1.

    Coaches around the country have been put on notice of the squad’s success as the Tritons have earned their first points in the Division-II National Soccer Coaches Association of America/Adidas national rankings, finishing just outside the top 25. The Tritons are ranked fourth in the West portion of the same poll.

    Pascale has credited his squad’s early season success to the players’ willingness to give their all on a daily basis.

    “The guys have been eager to learn and listen and have given strong efforts in both training and games,” Pascale said. “They have really focused on taking the season day by day and hold themselves to a pretty high standard on and off the field.”

    In addition, Pascale credited his defense with making goals few and far between for opponents.

    “Our biggest reason for success on the field has been our defending as we have only given up two goals so far this season,” he said. “All of our defenders and [senior goalkeeper] Peter Akerman have done a really great job holding teams down.”

    Finally, Pascale highlighted his team’s selflessness as a key part of the formula for forward-moving success.

    “We play a lot of guys and certainly everybody would prefer to get more minutes, but they have all accepted their roles and give their best when they are in there,” Pascale said. “We have had some guys go down and have been forced to play young and inexperienced players and they have picked up right where the other guys left off.”

    The Tritons hope to benefit from a wealth of experience as they return with 10 starters from last year’s squad, which finished the season 5-9-3 overall and 4-6-2 in division play. Their defense will again be a strong point, led by star net-minder Akerman, who made second team All-CCAA, and sophomore defender Jared Kukura, a CCAA honorable mention as a freshman.

    On the offensive side of the ball, the Tritons will stick with junior forward Tony Choi, who finished second on the team in points with nine last year. Choi said he agrees that the team’s experience will allow it to take the next step this year.

    “Last year we had a really young team and now a lot of guys have more experience,” Choi said. “I think we all work a little harder now.”

    Choi said he was impressed with Pascale thus far and believes the first-year coach has what it takes to build a winning lineup.

    “He has been fantastic and he really seems to know what he is doing,” Choi said. “He is really encouraging and knows how to motivate us.”

    While Pascale tried to temper expectations for the season, Choi did not hesitate to set his sights on the ultimate prize.

    “The goal is the same every year,” he said. “We want to go as far as we can and win the national title.”

    If the young season is any indication, that dream may not be so far out of reach.

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